Wow…somebody wrote an article saying Pope Urban I may not be so saintly. Color me shocked. Let’s face it, the guy is a big-time college football coach, which means he’s part politician, part used-car salesman, and complete sleazewad. If you doubt that, look at a coach who has won a BCS game in the last ten years and tell me how many of them weren’t scumbags.
Honestly, Pope Urban I may really be just like some other popes from the era of corrupted indulgences. In the Catholic church, the word “indulgence” originally meant kindness or favor; in post-classic Latin it came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. In Roman law and in the Vulgate of the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1) it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In theological language also the word is sometimes employed in its primary sense to signify the kindness and mercy of God.
However, none of those definitions match what an indulgence really is. By the strict Catholic definition, an indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due, in God’s justice, to sin that has been forgiven, which remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the merits of Christ and the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.
Now, you may be asking yourself just what the hell does all this Catholic doctrine have to do with this have to do with Urban Meyer?
First of all, Urban Meyer’s reign as a big-time college football coach has some major similarities with his namesake’s reign as the Supreme Pontiff. The real Pope Urban I was consecrated in 222 A.D. and ruled until his death in 230 A.D. And like Meyer, much Urban I’s life is shrouded in mystery, which has led to many myths and misconceptions.
In the case of Urban I, it was believed for centuries that he was martyred. But recent historical discoveries lead scholars to believe that he died of natural causes. This is just like how Urban Meyer left Florida under the guise of “health reasons;” reasons that miraculously were cured by being an analyst at ESPN for ten months.
Urban I’s reign saw a great deal of freedom in the Christian community leading to the growth of the Roman Church, which led to the belief that he was a skilled converter. Urban Meyer had the job on the Florida sideline during a time of relative success, which meant there was little scrutiny from the NCAA, which allowed him to recruit without a lot of hindrance from the NCAA, which led to the belief he is a skilled recruiter.
Urban I’s time in Rome was borne of strife as his predecessor was under wide criticism and there was a divide in the Church as the schismist Hippolytus was still leading a rival Christian congregation. Hippolytus also published the Philosophumena, which was little more than an attack on Urban I’s predecessor Callixtus. Urban Meyer took over at Florida in the wake of the “Fire Ron Zook” era, many harsh words were penned about Zook, and once Meyer left Florida, along comes the Sporting News to be his version of Hippolytus.
So, it goes without saying that we here at Dubsism weren’t surprised by the article published by the Sporting News this week that leveled some pretty hefty allegations at Meyer. To really understand our level of non-shockitude, it’s time for another patented Dubsism breakdown.
The uproar and controversy of Urban Meyer’s stunning recruiting coup at Ohio State settled in and Stefon Diggs, still on the Buckeyes’ wish list, was debating his future.
Diggs, the second-highest rated wide receiver in the country, had narrowed his list of potential schools to Maryland, Florida and Ohio State. For more than a week following National Signing Day on Feb. 1, and before Diggs eventually signed with Maryland, Meyer relentlessly pursued Diggs.
Multiple sources told Sporting News that Meyer—who won two national championships in six years at Florida and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches—told the Diggs family that he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room.
Character issues that we now know were fueled by a culture Meyer created. Character issues that gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football.
Whether we are talking about recruiting or converting matters little; it’s amazing how both will spark controversy. If you are a missionary in the jungles of Outer Wherever, the wrong words can mean you end up as a shrunken head on some tribesman’s belt. If you are a football coach, you will say just about anything to get that recruit, even if those words are borne of blatant hypocrisy.
It was Meyer who declared the Florida program “broken” at the end of his last regular season game in Gainesville in November of 2010. But why was it broken?
“Over the last two years he was there,” one former player said, “the players had taken complete control of the team.”
Only now, through interviews with multiple sources during a three-month Sporting News investigation, do we see just how damaged the infrastructure really was and how much repair work second-year coach Will Muschamp has had to undertake in replacing Meyer—who has moved on to Ohio State less than a year after resigning from Florida for health reasons.
Meyer denies allegations that he cast Florida and its players in a dark light when he spoke to the Diggs family, and said, “I love Florida; I’ll always be a Gator. My motives were pure as gold when I left. We left Florida because I was dealing with health issues that I’ve since learned how to control.”
Hmmm… “Always be a Gator” said while wearing Ohio State gear. “My motives were pure as gold,” knowing full well there’s a big difference between 10 karat and 24 karat. I bet it helps tremendously to believe in transubstantiation to buy that bilge.
But multiple former players and others close to the program say the timing of his departure was also tied to the roster he left behind. Remember it was Meyer who hinted the program that won 13 games in 2006, 2008 and 2009—and lost only 10 games from 2005-09—was flawed beyond the unsuspecting eye.
Now those issues have surfaced for all to see. Left in the wake of Meyer’s resignation were problems that can destroy a coaching career: drug use among players, a philosophy of preferential treatment for certain players, a sense of entitlement among all players and roster management by scholarship manipulation.
The coach who holds himself above the seedy underbelly of the game, who as an ESPN television analyst in 2011 publicly berated the ills of college football, left a program mired in the very things he has criticized.
Go back to my earlier statement about blatant hypocrisy. Meyer is bordering on being the guy who kills his parents, then begs for mercy because he is a orphan.
Ironically, Florida’s downfall began at the height of Meyer’s success—the 2008 national championship season. Three seasons of enabling and pandering to elite players—what Meyer’s players called his “Circle of Trust”—began to tear away at what he’d put together.
“I’ve never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life,” Meyer said.
Former players, though, contend it was the foundation of Florida’s culture under Meyer. In the season opener against Hawaii, Meyer said a few elite players (including wideout Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez) would miss the game with injuries. According to multiple sources, the three players—all critical factors in Florida’s rise under Meyer—failed drug tests for marijuana and were sitting out as part of standard university punishment.
By publicly stating the three were injured and not being disciplined, former players say, Meyer was creating a divide between the haves and have-nots on the team.
There’s almost no better way to destroy a team than by playing favorites. But so many coaches do it because it solves short-term problems despite the fact that it creates far more long-term ones. It sure looks like Meyer bailed when the long-term problems outweighed his ability to deal with them. Not only that, does anybody else see the coincidence that Meyer got the hell out of Gainesville once Nick Saban rejuvenated Alabama, which had to suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room in the recruiting world of the SEC? But let’s get back to the destruction of a team mindset…
The biggest impact, former players say, was for those in the Circle of Trust. It wasn’t so much a focus on trust as it was a revelation of talent. If you could play and contribute, you were part of the chosen few.
“(Meyer) lost the team’s respect,” Thomas said. “That kind of stuff spreads through the players. They see what they can get away with, and they push it. Even the star players; they liked him because they were in the Circle of Trust. But it backfired on him. They didn’t respect him.”
Said Meyer: “Was I dealing with entitlement issues? Yes. But they were great kids. If they weren’t, I would’ve gotten rid of them.”
This begs the question “What do you do with the guys on the outside looking in?”
One way of ridding a program of undesirables is roster management. Recruiting is the lifeblood of all programs. A direct correlation exists between winning at recruiting and winning on fall Saturdays.
Few do it better than Meyer. Few are as ruthless when it comes to recruiting—and when it comes to making room for recruits. Thomas was a four-star recruit from Zephyrhills, Fla., and had a series of knee injuries hinder his development.
After the 2008 season, Thomas says he was told he had to “move on” because he wasn’t in the team’s plans for 2009.
“I told (Meyer) I was on track to graduate, I wasn’t a problem and I did everything I was supposed to do—I just had a knee injury,” Thomas said. “I told them I wasn’t leaving, and if they tried to force me to leave, I was going to tell everyone everything.”
The next day, Thomas says he was given a medical hardship letter by position coach Chuck Heater stating Thomas had an injury that would prohibit him from playing football. The medical hardship scholarship doesn’t count against the NCAA limit of 85, and allows the affected player to stay on academic scholarship.
It also made room for another recruit. Meyer denied this tactic of roster management.
What a liar. I’ve been in management and business for close to twenty years, and I will tell you as a matter of fact that “roster management” is part and parcel to leading any team, whether you are running a supermarket or a football team. Where Meyer went wrong is he based his “weed-out” criteria on the wrong things.
Now, the question becomes how does this travel north to Columbus?
Before he walked on the field this spring to coach his first practice at Ohio State, Meyer ran into two more significant problems.
According to sources, Wisconsin accused Meyer and his staff of using former Ohio State NFL players to call high school recruits. Wisconsin also accused Meyer and his staff of bumping into offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, who was committed to the Badgers but eventually flipped and signed with the Buckeyes. The practice of “bumping” occurs when coaches accidentally “bump” into players during recruiting dead periods.
Both the alleged phone calls and bumping are NCAA violations.
When asked about the specific charges, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema declined comment but told Sporting News a day after National Signing Day that, “I wasn’t upset with Urban because of a gentlemen’s agreement. It was something else that I don’t want to get into. I told him what I knew, and he said he would take care of it and he did.”
Frankly, there’s far more in this article from the Sporting News, and it links to much, much more. More importantly, places like Ohio State and Florida have been the churches of college football for decades, and guys like Urban Meyer are the popes. But like the Catholic Church, the game of college football has some serious problems which need to be addressed. To fix them is going to take more than prayer; we need a Crusade.